Mixed data have also been reported for lung cancer. Several cohort studies found no association between plastic workers’ exposure to styrene and lung cancer.5,7,8 A case-control study of 7970 workers, however, found a significant increase in lung cancer–related mortality among those with high exposure to styrene for at least 1 year (standardized mortality rate [SMR], 1.44; 95% CI, 1.10-1.86).9

There has been no consistent evidence of occupational plastic exposure and lymphohematopoietic cancers. An analysis of the Danish cohort found that cumulative exposure to styrene resulted in an increased risk for acute myeloid leukemia (rate ratio [RR], 2.4; 95% CI, 1.2-4.6) compared with low exposure.10 Other studies found no consistent association between exposure to styrene and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and myeloid leukemia.4,5,7,9

There are also mixed data for cancers of the digestive tract. For esophageal cancer, there was no association in the Danish cohort, but another cohort study of 37,021 reinforced plastics workers found that esophageal cancer–related mortality was significantly increased with a cumulative exposure to airborne styrene that lagged 20 years (RR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.03-1.31).5,8 The same cohort study also found a significant association between airborne styrene exposure and pancreatic cancer (RR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.17-3.09 per 100 ppm).8 For colorectal cancer, a meta-analysis did not find an association among workers from plastic and rubber manufacturing industries (RR, 1.30; 95% CI, 0.98-1.71).11

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To date, no association with plastic exposure has been identified for bladder, kidney, or testicular germ cell tumors.4,12


There are few data to provide solid information about general exposure to plastic and cancer risk, particularly in the setting of everyday, nonoccupational contact. Although some studies suggest that workers from the plastic industry who are exposed to certain components, such as styrene, may be at increased risk of some cancers, the data are not conclusive.


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